Due to its proximity ‘P&K’ is often compared to Porthcawl and whilst there are many similarities, particularly the green complexes, it doesn’t quite match its Royal neighbour from a true championship perspective.
However, it makes up for a lot of that in the charm it exudes between holes 11 and 14 and the venue has staged many notable championships itself over the years.
For the most part Pyle & Kenfig plays as an upland links on high ground with only a distant view of the sea on several holes. The entire front nine, on the East side of a road that dissects the course in half, has a lovely feel to it but also teases the golfer with a view of the fairways and greens of the back nine that meander between large dunes on the other side of the road.
However, my advice wouldn’t be to rush the outward half because there is plenty of merit in these holes with a number of strong par fours; the opening three being particularly good whilst the seventh and eight each dog-leg slightly but to different sides. Two par fives, running in opposite directions, are also solid holes and the one-shotters are sound too.
The subtle front nine may not have the eye-candy of the second half, or be as dramatic, but there is an authority about the holes that commands respect. It isn’t true rugged links golf and doesn’t possess an ounce of quirk but it is solid golf nonetheless and goes about its business in an efficient manner.
After returning to the clubhouse and crossing the road the 10th continues where the first half left off. Then a change of terrain and scenery gradually envelops you at the 11th. This par five gradually enters the duneland as it shapes to the left and rises up to a fantastic green complex with some fine cross bunkering some fifty yards short of the green. The hole is spoilt by the distant view of what I suspect is part of a winter course that sits inside much of the back-nine for initially, when stood on the tee, it appears that you should play to this green.
The par three 12th skirts the dunes before the next two holes play right through the heart of it. Both the 13th and 14th have valley fairways flanked by high dunes and dog-leg sharply before you play to secluded green settings. Glorious views adorn this part of the course with a seemingly endless stretch of hillocks, valleys and towering sandhills to the left of the 14th hole. Sadly the golfer doesn’t get to venture this far out and arguably you leave the dunescape too soon, albeit in the form of an excellent par three.
But just when you feel the round may finish on an anticlimatical note the 16th and 17th deliver probably the two best holes on the course. Both demanding two-shotters at around the 450 yard mark but it is the green complexes that really make these holes stand out. The 16th especially is superb as it all gathers towards a bunker at the front-left of the putting surface. The 18th is no pushover either at a similar length, and is a fine finishing hole, but it doesn’t quite have the quality of the previous two.
On my visit in October 2014 I stayed in the Dormy House and booked the first available tee-time for the following morning; 7.40am. I was round the front-nine in a little over an hour and was fortunate to have a clear run on the back-nine. However the Club have an unusual starting policy where they stagger two balls against three and four ball groups at various times of the day. I can imagine if you get ahead or behind schedule this could pose some issues.
Pyle and Kenfig is a super course in an area blessed with many fine links. It can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the majority of them and with on-site Dormy accommodation it is a great place to base yourself out of if visiting this lovely part of the country.
It's a long time since I've walked off a golf course and been as impressed and surprised, compared to what I was expecting, than at Newbiggin.
A family holiday brought me to Whitby Golf Club. After stuffing myself with fish & chips, losing most of my money on the penny slots and catching umpteen crabs in the harbour it was time for a round of golf!
Planning a round of golf in late October can be a dicey affair, especially in my home county of Yorkshire where the vast majority of courses are built on heavy soil or clay, so it was very refreshing to discover when venturing down south how well East Berkshire played at this time of year.